Factors Influencing Job Choice among Agricultural Economics Professionals

Article excerpt

This article identifies factors that influence agricultural economics professionals' job choice between academic and government employment. Respondents agreed that job responsibilities were the most important factor in choosing their current position. They also agreed that having a positive work environment, good salary, family time, adequate resources, and professional and social interaction were important job attributes. Proportionally more women than men regarded partner opportunities, nondiscrimination, time for child care, and supportive colleagues as very important attributes influencing their decisions. A binomial probit of respondents' current job sector indicates significant job choice determinants include sector preference (academic or government), previous professional experience, a positive work environment, and advancement opportunities.

Key Words: academic and government agricultural economics professionals, binomial probit, job choice, job preferences, gender

JEL Classifications: C25, J24, J43, J45

Each year many new agricultural economics graduates enter the job market. Choosing a position in the agricultural economics field is not unlike the search process in other disciplines (Butler, Sanders, and Whitecotton, 2000; University of Iowa College of Education, 2011). Upon graduation, these new professionals choose positions based on their goals, skills and experience (human capital), position availability, and job attribute preferences (e.g., opportunities for advancement, location, time for family, salary). Job choice studies seek to identify sets of factors that explain one career choice over another and determine respondents' job preferences, reasons for choosing one's current position, and factors that attract employees who are good matches for different work environments. For agricultural economics professionals, there are five clear sectors in which demand occurs: academia, government, business, international, and consulting (Schneider, 1985). This study analyzes survey responses from agricultural economics professionals working in the academic and federal government sectors.

Both employers and employees benefit from job choice studies. Identifying attractive qualities of positions and determining applicants' characteristics and preferences creates a more transparent environment in which candidates and employers can make well-informed decisions to foster job satisfaction, performance, and career longevity. This study seeks to identify factors influencing job choice, specifically among agricultural economics professionals. Most job choice information in the agricultural economics field is becoming dated with primary sources at least 10 years old and some up to 25 years old (Cheney, 2000; Schneider, 1985). Much of the existing information on agricultural economics professionals' job choices was obtained from topics addressed in salary studies (Barkley, Stock, and Sylvius, 1999; Broder and Deprey, 1985; Popp et al., 2010). The existing studies have examined working agricultural economics professionals (Marchant and Zepeda, 1995; Thilmany, 2000), but analyses have been descriptive as opposed to modeling choice behavior. Furthermore, many studies of agricultural economics professionals have only analyzed respondents from the academic sector with a special emphasis on the relationship between gender and salary (Abdula, 2008; Thilmany, 2000). Although Hiñe and Cheney (2000) focused on job choices of agricultural economics professionals and presented descriptive statistics by gender and ethnicity, no analyses were presented.

The current study seeks to address gaps in the relevant topics of job choice among agricultural economics professionals and choice behavior analysis as opposed to description. The study is novel for two reasons: 1) it identifies factors influencing the choice between a position in either academia or government with a probit model; and 2) it includes sample data for both new professionals in their first professional positions and seasoned professionals who, in many cases, are currently employed in positions other than their first professional positions after matriculation. …